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Roanoke Rapids Leaders Defend Parton Theater Deal

Posted April 25, 2007

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— Public money brought the Randy Parton Theater to Roanoke Rapids, but the promise of a picture-postcard entertainment destination is the source of great excitement and some skepticism.

The city's contract with Randy Parton shows the brother of country legend Dolly Parton stands to make millions over the life of the deal. Roanoke Rapids already has fronted him $500,000 as a loan. Roanoke Rapids leaders also borrowed more than $21 million to build the 1,500-seat building.

The contract, signed nearly two years ago, promises to pay Randy Parton an artist fee of $1.5 million per year to perform at and run the theater. Taxpayers are on the hook for the building, but city leaders argue that tickets will dictate whether Parton gets paid.

“The way the project is set up, the artist is paid for out of theater revenues generated from ticket sales and other revenues from the theater,” said Economic Development Director Rick Benton. “If the revenues aren't generated, the artist fees fall short.”

Should the theater struggle, Roanoke Rapids’ taxpayers could be called on to make up the difference. But Parton isn’t guaranteed to get paid unless fans show up.

Randy Parton didn't want to talk about the deal, which also includes a monthly house and car allowance paid for by private investors. He did allude to the excitement and anxiety he feels as he prepares to launch his show and lure more acts.

“I think the man is lucky to have somebody give him ($1.5 million) and an expense account and all that,” said longtime resident J.O. Pierce. “If it falls on taxpayers, I'm going to have more concerns.”

The Randy Parton Theater stands alone along I-95 in Halifax County. But local leaders see the dirt being turned around it as fertile economic ground. It's already spawned a Hilton Hotel under construction, a future billiards complex, more than 20 major retail commitments and summer outdoor concerts with Trace Adkins and Gretchen Wilson.

“The more people we have come, the more they are planning to come back. So, it’s very, very real,” said Elizabeth Branham with Carolina Crossroads Entertainment.

Mayor D.N. Beale said Roanoke Rapids can't sit on its hands. Reward only comes with risk.

“We had to do something,” Beale said. “We had to come up with something to do better for our citizens.”

Parton hopes to launch his show by mid- to late summer.

20 Comments

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  • abmcalli Apr 26, 2007

    I'm from Roanoke Rapids. The concerts that have been held there already have done VERY well. There wasn't a hotel room to be found within 30 minutes of town on those weekends. But there are people who are very angry about this complex going up, and a lot of them are the lower income residents, or the ones that live in the housing development that is within earshot of the theater.

  • Maj. T.J. Kong Apr 26, 2007

    Well, you know, Doc, when something happens, you can leave a trace of itself behind. Say like, if someone burns toast. Well, maybe things that happen leave other kinds of traces behind. Not things that anyone can notice, but things that people who "shine" can see. Just like they can see things that haven't happened yet. Well, sometimes they can see things that happened a long time ago. I think a lot of things happened right here in this particular hotel over the years. And not all of 'em was good.

  • 2little2late Apr 26, 2007

    RE:"Dolly has the D's...lol...lot of 'em"..priceless.....lol

  • ProgFan Apr 26, 2007

    Yeah ncstarinvestigator, you do get used to it. I don't even notice it anymore and sometimes I don't get back to RR for months at a time. My daughters, though, are quick to point out to me "it stinks, Dad". But then only on certain days, induced by the weather and the pulp formula for whatever product line #3 and #4 are running (yes, I did my time in the mill too! it was Horner-Waldorf then, formerly Albemarle, then Champion and other name changes/owners I can't recall.) You're right about Kapstone, saw the sign Easter Sunday on our way to church. Dad says with each new owner the retirement benefits get worse.

  • ncstarinvestigator Apr 26, 2007

    Progfan, you are right. Forgot the county line was divided at the bridge and the plant is actually to the left of the bridge, in Halifax County. Thanks for correcting that. Guess I was thinking Northampton as I pass by the Kapstone building on the left of Hwy 46 in Northampton so much. Either way, you do get used to the smell if you live close enough.

  • ProgFan Apr 26, 2007

    Actually, the mill IS in RR, on the Halifax County side of the Roanoke River. You get used to it. As my Dad used to say, "it smells like money!" He worked there for 30 years and still lives in the house I grew up in, one mile from the mill.

    My parents went to the ground-breaking event on Nov 11, 2005 and got to meet Randy and Dolly. They were very impressed with them and hope this complex eases somewhat the loss of the 6 JP Stevens mills which employed approx 5000 people.

  • Maj. T.J. Kong Apr 26, 2007

    Ohhhhh, Randy Parton. Yes, he is Dolly Parton's brother. "stoney" was speaking of "Randy pardon" when he/she was telling us that he is a "fine outstanding gentleman." Apparently "stoney" is so familiar with the Parton/pardon family that he/she does not know how to spell their name.

  • ncstarinvestigator Apr 26, 2007

    It's actually spelled Randy Parton with a T not a D...Dolly has the D's...lol...lot of 'em.

  • I hear voices Apr 26, 2007

    Maj. T.J. Kong... Randy Pardon is Dolly's brother.

  • Maj. T.J. Kong Apr 26, 2007

    "for all you fine people of roanoke rapids, just stand firm. Randy pardon will not let you down. he is a fine outstanding gentleman"

    Who is "Randy pardon"?

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